Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was the most popular kid in his high school. The teachers loved him. He was an all-star athlete. His grades were excellent. And he was the only person who was nice to Robby Weirdicht (Dwayne Johnson).
With their high school reunion approaching, Calvin is reluctant to go, having only become an accountant, showing that he peaked in high school. Days before the reunion, Robbie, now going by Bob Stone, contacts Calvin via Facebook. Calvin, expecting the Robbie he knew in high school, is surprised when he meets up with a now buff Bob.
As the former classmates spend time together, Calvin finds himself in the middle of a CIA manhunt centered around Bob. Bob is accused of going rogue from the CIA and being involved in a plan to sell weapons to some unsavory characters. Drawn into the midst of the action, Calvin must try to figure out which is the right side to be on and keep himself alive.
To be honest, when I first heard about Central Intelligence, I had my doubts. Kevin Hart can be hit or miss at times, and the previews of the Rock as Robbie Weirdicht seemed like it could be a gimmick that gets old quick. Fortunately, Central Intelligence is a sleeper comedy similar to Melissa McCarthy’s Spy.
Kevin Hart brings his A-game as Calvin Joyner. He avoids getting into his one-note character that gets grating after a while. Instead, he remains a little more grounded while displaying the better side of his comedic timing. Dwayne Johnson, surprisingly, was the slightly weaker of the two. The performance was a bit unbalanced between his weird, “quirky” Robbie-now-Bob Stone and his typical intimidating style once the action starts. Overall, though, he does well, especially when he gets back to his comfort zone.
The jokes are quick and nonstop. And the majority of them are delivered well. I feared most of them would focus on the obvious physical differences between Kevin and Dwayne. Fortunately, the writers never resorted to this easy punchline, instead focusing on smarter, sharper jokes. The biggest exception is Dwayne’s bumbling persona when he first meets Calvin years later. It wears on you after a while. Once they moved past this gag, the movie gets better.
Using a plot that gets recycled all too often, it is a little predictable at times. Part spy thriller, part buddy comedy, they found a good mix that highlights Hart and Johnson’s strengths. The mostly smart writing keeps things moving along at a good pace.
While Central Intelligence isn’t quite as good as Spy, it is still a surprisingly funny and entertaining film. If you are looking for a good laugh, don’t miss this one. It is one of the funniest films of the year so far.